A reading of a classic unfinished poem
‘Kubla Khan’ is perhaps the most famous unfinished poem in all of English literature. But why the poem remained unfinished, and how Samuel Taylor Coleridge came to write it in the first place, are issues plagued by misconception and misunderstanding. How should we analyse this classic poem by one of the pioneers of English Romanticism?
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover! Read the rest of this entry
The best poems by Shelley
Percy Shelley (1792-1822) wrote a considerable amount of poetry in his short life, as well as penning pamphlets such as The Necessity of Atheism (which got him expelled from Oxford) and ‘A Defence of Poetry’ (which contains his famous declaration that ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’). But which are Shelley’s very best poems. Undoubtedly, a number of poems immediately spring to mind. Below are what we consider to be Shelley’s ‘top ten’. What’s your favourite Shelley poem?
‘Ozymandias’. Published in The Examiner on 11 January 1818, ‘Ozymandias’ is perhaps Percy Bysshe Shelley’s most celebrated and best-known poem. A sonnet about the remnants of a statue standing alone in a desert – a desert which was once the vast civilisation of Ozymandias, ‘King of Kings’ – the poem is a haunting meditation on the fall of civilisations and the futility of all human endeavour. Shelley wrote the poem as part of a competition with his friend, Horace Smith. Read the rest of this entry
A reading of Blake’s classic poem
‘Jerusalem’ is one of the most famous hymns around, a sort of alternative national anthem for England. Yet the poem on which Hubert Parry based his hymn, although commonly referred to as ‘William Blake’s “Jerusalem”’, is actually from a much larger poetic work titled Milton a Poem and was largely ignored when it was published in 1804. It became well-known when it was set to music by Parry during the First World War (curiously, it was Robert Bridges, the Poet Laureate and the one who got Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poems into print, who suggested the idea to Parry). In this post, we’re going to delve deeper into the poem we know as ‘Jerusalem’, focusing on William Blake’s use of language.
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills? Read the rest of this entry